Synthetic fuels: production& advantages
Test drives with regeneratively generated e-diesel prove its suitability for everyday use.
Photo: bosch synthetic fuels: production& advantages
wind energy splits H2 from water, which then becomes e-fuel. The closed CO2 cycle does not harm the world’s climate.
Synthetic fuels: production& advantages
Synthetic fuels are produced with surplus energy from wind and hydroelectric power plants.
Photo: bauerstock/AUTO ZEITUNG
With e-fuels such as blue gasoline from VW, bosch and shell, gasoline and diesel can be operated in a climate-neutral manner provided that manufacturers use wind or water energy for this purpose. We name advantages, disadvantages and costs of synthetic fuels. This article was last updated on 12.01.2022 updated.
Despite the development of e-fuels, or synthetic fuels, which has been accompanied by the media, the first thing on people’s minds when it comes to drives for the automotive future is a move away from the internal combustion engine and a direct start into the electric age with e-motors and high-voltage batteries. But the reality is probably more complex. Instead of just one alternative, a wide range of powertrains will be used. Because range anxiety, lack of charging infrastructure, long charging times and high costs are still holding back the attractiveness of e-mobility. According to forecasts by the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), well over 75 percent of all passenger cars worldwide will still be equipped with a conventional drive system in 2025. According to the VDA, these coming generations of gasoline and diesel engines will operate even more efficiently and cleanly than today’s internal combustion engines. Particularly exciting: new synthetic fuels should even make it possible to achieve climate-gas-neutral mobility in the future. In plain language: e-fuels from the future lab not only burn cleanly in the drive engine, but also completely without releasing fossil-bound CO2. More on this topic: our product tips on amazon
Audi produces synthetic fuel (video):
What are e-fuels, synthetic fuels??
Synthetic fuels are fuels for gasoline or diesel engines that are produced by a complex chemical process. Ideally, this is done without the use of fossil raw materials like crude oil, natural gas or coal- to use. E-fuels are created by a sophisticated combination of chemical molecules to achieve intended performance and properties while eliminating unwanted pollutant emissions.
How are synthetic fuels produced??
Synthetic fuels are produced in an environmentally friendly way using renewable energies. To achieve this, hydrogen is first obtained by splitting it from water. This is done by electrolysis, which requires a great deal of electricity. For a liquid fuel such as e-diesel or e-gasoline, carbon is now being added to the fuel. This can be obtained from industrial processes, bio-gas plants or even (with special filters) directly from the air. The combination of carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2) then produces the e-fuel. By shaping the fuel accordingly, it can take on the basic properties of gasoline, diesel or kerosene.
Which manufacturers of e-fuels are there??
It is already technically possible to produce synthetic fuels not only in the laboratory but also in production plants. Together with shell and VW, bosch has developed a gasoline that is made up to 33 percent from renewable sources. The fuel, called blue gasoline, is to be available at regular filling stations in germany in 2021, according to bosch’s plan. Audi, together with its partners ineratec gmbh and energiedienst holding AG, is operating a pilot plant for the production of e-diesel in laufenburg in the swiss canton of aargau. The company has already gained experience with partners in norway and dresden. Experiments have been underway for some time at another production facility at the leuna chemical works near halle/bitterfeld, Germany. porsche is also deeply involved in the topic and is building a pilot plant for the production of e-fuels in chile. Siemens, the Chilean energy company andes mining& energy (AME), the Chilean mineral oil company ENAP and the Italian energy company enel are also involved.
How much climate gas CO2 can be avoided with synthetic fuels??
E-fuels can save a huge amount of greenhouse gas. Bosch experts have calculated that by 2050, the consistent use of synthetic fuels- complementary to electrification could help to save up to 2.8 gigatons (in other words, 2.800.000.000.000 kilograms of CO2). The equivalent of three times the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by germany in 2016.
E-fuels burn cleaner than conventional fuels?
In from transport& environment (T& E) in tests commissioned, a gasoline-powered vehicle fueled with e-fuel polluted the air to the same extent as with fossil fuel. According to the French research institute IFPenergies nouvelles (IFPEN), which carries out the research, the emissions were of toxic nitrogen oxides (nox) at a similarly high level. In addition, the combustion of synthetic gasoline produced three times as much carbon monoxide and up to twice as much ammonia as fossil gasoline. Particulate emissions were much better out, which was significantly lower for e-fuel combustion. In percentage terms, the e-fuel particle balance is expected to be even better for older vehicles without particulate filters. Since there are no e-fuels available on the open market yet, IFPEN has produced the fuel for the tests itself.
What is the difference between biofuels and synthetic fuels??
By using electricity from renewable energy sources, synthetic fuels can be produced without the usual quantity limitations of biofuels (due to the amount of land available for cultivation). In addition, there are no ethical concerns with e-fuels, such as whether agricultural products belong on the plate instead of in the tank. Synthetic fuels always have the same properties and energy content. In the case of bio-products, these are strongly dependent on seasonal growth conditions.
How to refuel an e-fuel?
The existing network of filling stations can continue to be used for the new e-fuels. They are blended in exactly the same way as conventional fuel and are subject to comparable ignition and hazard classes. Basic conversions are therefore not necessary for e-fuels.
How expensive are synthetic fuels??
Electrolysis processes are energy-intensive. If excess energy from solar, hydro and wind power plants is used, the economic efficiency improves enormously. Currently, e-fuel costs about twice as much as a comparable amount of fossil fuel energy. But with larger production volumes and falling electricity prices, synthetically produced fuels could become much more affordable. According to current studies, pure fuel costs for e-fuels of 1.00 to 1.40 euros per liter are feasible (excluding tax).
Which vehicles can be powered by e-fuels??
Synthetic fuels are already compatible with the current generation of engines. All current cars and even classic cars can run on synthetic gasoline or, in the case of diesel engines, on e-diesel, because the new fuels are fully compatible with all standard engine materials and lubricants.
When will e-fuels be ready for series production??
Testing for e-fuels is in full swing. in germany, the federal ministry of economics and energy promotes synthetic fuels. Synthetic fuels are seen as an important building block for solving the EU’s ambitious climate targets. The representatives of the mineral oil industry are also involved in the development and want to integrate sales into the existing fuel supply structure. E-diesel is currently much further along than e-gasoline. The swiss pilot plant is expected to produce 400.000 liters of synthetic compression ignition fuel a year. Shell believes it will not be able to offer market-relevant quantities before 2030.
What are the car manufacturers’ views on synthetic fuels??
German automakers are keen to introduce e-fuels as quickly as possible. This would allow further use of combustion technology that has been trimmed for efficiency- and that even completely clean and carbon dioxide neutral.